Austin’s iconic pink house won’t be torn down — but it won’t be pink much longer

AUSTIN — The iconic “Pink House” on Chicago’s West Side won’t be torn down, but it won’t be pink for long either, as its new owners have begun a complete interior remodel to restore the dilapidated property — and give it a new paint job.

Debra Kelch, who bought the house at 556 N. Central Ave. in Austin about 18 months ago with her husband and daughter, said construction started last week on the extensive remodel, which will include a complete gutting of the home’s interior, an open floor plan, new roof, new siding and new windows .

Social media posts claiming the house was demolished circulated widely Tuesday, upsetting West Siders who described the property as an indelible part of their neighborhood.

Kelch dismissed those rumors Wednesday, saying the family was simply restoring the house in hopes of putting it on the market, and that the classic Victorian exterior facade, gable tower and double-decked wraparound porch would remain largely the same.

“Everything will be kept as original as possible,” Kelch said. “We’re going to try to keep it a beautiful Victorian. It’s too beautiful of a design. That’s actually why we bought it.”

But Kelch said the eponymous white-and-pink trim and picket fence would also get a replacement.

“No, we’re not keeping it pink,” Kelch said. “There were pros and cons, but it would be a harder sell.”

Kelch said the house would likely be painted sage green, the same color as the new garage that was built last year.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Austin’s beloved Pink House at 556 N. Central Ave. is being rebuilt.

Located on a large corner lot at the intersection of Central Avenue and Ohio Street in Austin, the stately, 2,600-square-foot, five-bedroom Victorian gingerbread house has a history that dates back to the late 1800s. In the 1980s, Isiah Anderson bought the dilapidated property, restored it to its former glory, and painted the once sinister-green building in its signature pink-and-white colors.

The interior of the house also included plush pink furniture, pink carpet and ornate pink stairs and balustrades. Anderson’s daughter, Yolanda, said the home’s bright colors were inspired by her parents’ upbringing in the South, where it’s more common for homes to include bold colors and elaborate trim.

Credit: Pascal Sabino/Block Club Chicago
Austin’s Pink House in June 2019.

But by 2020, Anderson had died and the house had once again fallen into disrepair. Yolanda put the property on the market and sought to sell it to new owners who wanted to preserve the building.

RELATED: Austin’s Pink House – inspired by the family’s Southern roots – is for sale with a price drop to $160,000

Kelch, who lives in Michigan, bought the property in March 2021 for $120,000, according to Cook County Assessor’s records.

Kelch said she and her husband bought it with the intention of renovating the property so her daughter could live in it. But it took about 18 months for the city to issue a building permit to the new owners, and her daughter recently received a job offer elsewhere, prompting their desire to sell, Kelch said.

RELATED: Austin’s iconic pink house will be sold and saved, longtime owners say

City records show the owners received a building permit to do an interior remodel on Sept. 2, 2022.

The city also filed a foreclosure complaint against the property on Aug. 25, 2022, alleging the property owners had left the house in a state of disrepair with, among other things, a rotted roof, damaged masonry and cracked joists, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by the Block Club.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
The fence at Austin’s beloved “Pink House,” 556 N. Central Ave., as seen on Sept. 20, 2022.

Kelch did not know the city had issued the foreclosure complaint. The city building department did not respond to a request for comment regarding the permit, and the city law department declined to comment on pending litigation.

Meanwhile, Kelch said the remodel would include an open floor plan as well as brand new siding and structural repairs. On Wednesday, a crew of workers worked on the roof replacing shingles and rafters.

“Everything will be brand new, inside and out,” Kelch said. “The house will be beautiful when it’s all done.”

Yolanda Anderson, the former owner, said houses that are old often need parts torn out in order to rebuild it.

“I’m sure they will do an excellent job and bring it back to life better than ever,” she said.

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